Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gravel’s Lament: Fighting Another Dumb War

In his truthdig.com article, Gravel’s Lament: Fighting Another Dumb War, Chris Hedges critiques war from a perspective from which others cannot: Chris Hedges is a veteran war correspondent spending nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. No one is better qualified to comment on the horrors of war. His views are important and cannot be simply cast aside.

However, in his article, Chris Hedges embraces the views of Mike Gravel, the former two-term senator from Alaska, on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, quoting him throughout his piece.

There are significant points that are made by Chris Hedges and Mike Gravel where I agree. Nevertheless, where I agree must be qualified with the realities facing America in the engagement of those wars.

Where I agree with Chris Hedges and Mike Gravel:

… the absurdity of most war plans and the pathological addiction to violence—which is the only language most who command our armed forces are able to understand—make the American military the gravest threat to our anemic democracy … Chris Hedges

A plague of unchecked militarism has seeped outward from the Pentagon since the end of World War II and is now sucking our marrow dry. It is a familiar disease in imperial empires. We are in the terminal stage. We spend more on our military—half of all discretionary spending—than all of the other countries on Earth combined, although we face no explicit threat. Chris Hedges

We have acculturated the nation to a military culture. This is the sadness of it all because that sustains the military-industrial complex. Mike Gravel

Beyond these statatements I am pretty much in disagreement with the article literally and its tone, particularly with the views of Mike Gravel, and so therefore in this regard of Chris Hedges too, since he endorses Gavel’s view.

So, these are my qualifications based on real world realities:

To begin with, I am in sympathy with President Obama. He addressed my concerns succinctly in his Noble Peace Prize acceptance speech. As the President said, I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage.

How can anyone judge a man who has been in office for less than a year and compare or judge his accomplishments to another who was in office for eight years. The statement by Gravel, Obama has wasted an opportunity to be a great president, is a very premature presumption, and in fairness he is not giving our President his just due.

Moreover, the article is also written without any consideration given to the President who was handed two wars (along with some other very exigent situations) that have been raging in Afghanistan and Iraq for eight and six years respectively by a warrior minded nation, by a hawkish, warrior minded previous President and his Administration, and a U.S. Congress who were equally warrior minded, and who have supported both wars.

The expectation that those wars should be ended posthaste is simply not doable or reasonable, and if he were to do just that, it would be very irresponsible, if not immoral. Our President is clearly between a rock and a hard place, he is faced with some very difficult and sensitive situations.

As President Obama said, We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

So in our zeitgeist, without the desire to, and without sufficient knowledge on how to manage conflict peacefully, the mandates of jus in bello or jus ad bellum (just war) are legitimate. It declares that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the force used is proportional, and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

The Iraq War was not justified. The United States of America conducted a preemptive attack against a sovereign nation (a nation that was encumbered with sanctions and other restrictions, and on whom we were conducting air surveillance, or fly-overs) based on the pretext that Iraq was in ways responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001. Later we found out this to be false, and that deliberate lies were made by President George W Bush in his State of the Union Address, and by Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, to the United Nations Security Council. Furthermore, we hit Iraq, with what was headlined at the time as Shock and Awe, in violation of the Just War doctrine the attack was not in self-defense; the force used was not proportional; and, civilians were not spared from the violence.

Our war in Afghanistan was justified: we took actions for our self-defense against those who were unequivocally responsible for the attacks of September 11th; the force was proportional (Shock and Awe was not applied); and there has been a clear attempt -- albeit at times not successful -- to spare civilians from the violence.

I am a pacifist. I believe that disputes between nations should and can be settled peacefully, but in our contemporary world that is not always possible. However, when it’s not possible, nations must respect the laws and conditions delineated in the laws of Just War.

In the following quotes, President Obama is absolutely correct when he states that we must think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace; I make this [these] statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago – ‘Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones’; the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. ‘Let us focus,’ he said, ‘on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.’

From these statements, it is at least clear to me that our President understands the intractable situations in which our world and the United States are sometimes confronted. I feel this country is blessed with a leader who is not a warrior and war hawk, and pragmatically understands that a more attainable peace is not based on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions. After all, the attainment of peace is a process.

With all due respect for Chris Hedges’s and Mike Gravel’s antiwar stance, nevertheless, articles of this ilk do nothing to ameliorate our real world situation nor do they beneficially contribute in anyway to the conversation or advancement of a lasting peace.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Peace on Earch

From our family to your family we wish very happy holidays.

At this time of the year, regardless of ones God, faith, or other belief, the most important prayer or plea we all should make ought to be for peace on earth, greater tolerance, and compassionate good will towards all of earth’s people, and for every New Year to continually commit oneself to that goal.

For would not that be the commandment of the Prince of Peace?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Story You Should Know: Stones Into Schools


The story of Greg Mortenson and his mission in Pakistan and Afghanistan to build schools, in my mind, ranks amongst one of the more important stories of today’s Pakistan and Afghanistan. Since 1996, Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer and humanitarian, has built 78 schools, many of them focusing on education for girls, first in Pakistan and then in Afghanistan, through the Central Asia Institute (CAI), which he and Dr. Jean Hoerni, a silicon transistor pioneer, co--founded. CAI also sponsors the Pennies for Peace program, where schoolchildren raise pennies to help fund CAI's activities.

Central Asia Institute's achievements include:

Established or significantly supported 131 schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan;
Fully or partially supported 687 teachers;
Provided education for over 58,000 students, including 44,000 girls;
Provided ongoing education for victims of Pakistan's October 2005 7.8 Richter scale earthquake. (The quake killed 74,000 people, including 18,000 students, and displaced 2.8 million refugees. CAI has rebuilt or re-established 16 schools destroyed in the earthquake.)

Greg Mortenson’s awards, book awards and mentions, and honorary doctorate degrees are many.

In 2009, Greg Mortenson received recognition for his work in Pakistan: the Sitara-e-Pakistan (Star of Pakistan), Pakistan's highest civilian award, for his humanitarian work and promotion of girl’s schools and education.

He was recently deservingly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, by several bi-partisan members of U.S. Congress, and according to Norwegian odd-makers was believed to have been in a handful of finalists of the Peace prize that was awarded to President Obama on October 10, 2009.

It is clear from what has been written, Greg Mortenson is an extraordinary human being. His humanitarian work in Pakistan and Afghanistan is something truly to behold. Against formidable odds, he has accomplished more to uplift the people in these countries, albeit his work geographically localized as it might be, than the Afghan Internal Security Force or the U.S. Military, any diplomat, President or Head of State. And, he has been the protagonist; his work has been all hands-on, it has not been from behind a desk. Every American should be humbled by this man’s persistence and endurance, compassion and courage. Our country should hold Greg Mortenson’s accomplishments as a model and example of what can be achieved, here at home, in Afghanistan, or anywhere in the world. And we should be proud because he is an American.

As a child who lived in Tanzania, East Africa, for 12 years, he tells of an African proverb that states educate a boy, you educate an individual; educate a girl, and you educate a community, which has turned out to be his life’s destiny. That adage became the premise for his Afghanistan mission: books, not bombs, are the best weapons against extremist groups like the Taliban.

The Christian Science Monitor posted an excellent article, Key to Afghan crisis: tea and education. In that article it is written: Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, says success lies in building trust and schools in rural Afghanistan; As President Obama pledged another 30,000 US troops Dec. 1 to root out terrorists in Afghanistan, Mortenson is suggesting that effort must go hand in hand with another: grass-roots education; education is the long-term solution to terrorism and violent extremism; Greg Mortenson doesn’t need to rely on think tanks or arcane policy documents to find the road to a better Afghanistan.

It is also clear from what has been written that he has influenced Admiral Mullen, General Petraeus, and General McChrystal, in that President Obama’s new Afghan strategy seems to reflect in many ways Greg Mortenson’s Key to Afghan tactic.

Greg Mortenson is the author (one was co-authored) of two very inspirational books: He describes his initial journey into Pakistan in Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace … One School At A Time, a New York Times bestseller who he wrote with journalist David Oliver Relin; and a new book, a sequel, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the Blackfive.com blog there is a tab labeled, Someone You Should Know. Its stated mission is to protect and promote the reputation and dignity of America's Warriors. The blog posts stories of heroism.

In America, a militaristic country, the common thought is that nothing can be done in a non-belligerent way. For the most part, Americans believe that talking gets us nowhere and that negotiations are synonymous with appeasement. Americans are under the misguided belief that if we did not have a military we would not have a country. Consequently, they buy into stories as told in Someone You Should Know, and the warrior becomes the true hero. These stories are the ones that are usually headlined.

Well, the Story You Should Know is that of Greg Mortenson. Stories such as those of Greg Mortenson take a long time, if ever, to be headlined. Americans do not view the Greg Mortensons of our world as heroes, there acts are compassionate and perhaps admired, but to most Americans, at least the ones that I know, do not think of them as heroes. Contrary to that mindset, in my mind Greg Mortenson is unequivocally a hero.

The Greg Mortensons of this world will collectively bring about peace to this world, where the belligerence of the warrior will not.

Asalaam-o-Alaikum (Peace be with you)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Global Warming: the whole thing is hooey?

Naturalist Paul Brook wrote in The Art of Seeing Nature, How much we see depends on what we bring to the encounter.

Many perceive the environment only aesthetically. While it’s important that environmental values should be seen in light of aesthetic significance, it is also, and more important that it be seen objectively and pragmatically: its effects on the health of our civilization, economy, personal health, and the health of the cosmos are very significant and far reaching.

Furthermore, Paul Brooks wrote in The Pursuit of Wilderness, We shall never understand the natural environment until we see it as a living organism.

For too many Americans, the environment is seen as being essentially a political, as well as a dollar and cents issue. Until we take politics and profit out of environmental considerations and judge environmental contamination as akin to poor health in the same way we view cancer, heart attack, diabetes …we are going to drive the quality of life and the prospects of a viable environmental evolution down into a deep abyss from which we will never be able to climb out -- if we neglect our environment, it could come to a point at some future time where bringing the environment back to good health simply may not be possible.

The natural environment, of which Paul Brooks speaks, encompasses all that is living and non-living that exists on earth and in the cosmos. It consists of all natural mass, energy, and forces. It is comprised of all organisms, air, water, rocks, soil, climate, all natural phenomenon, and their ecologies. It’s the totality of circumstances and the combination of external physical conditions surrounding an organism or group of organisms that affect their growth, development, and survival. Our environment should be considered to include even the social and cultural conditions affecting the nature of an individual or community. The natural environment is also inclusive of our consciousness. Each influences the other and interacts with each other symbiotically in such a way as to maintain a very delicate ecological balance.

Put all together, the natural environment is a vibrant structure of all existence that is not manmade: a universal space consisting of interdependent, sophisticated, infinitely complex, and profound properties. All mass and energy of the natural world is in fact a very fragile, sentiently alive organism.

However, the much-publicized issue of Global Warming is what has taken center stage in the environment debate. It is this concern that 130 nations have gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the United Nations Climate Change Conference on the 7th to the 18th of December 2009. Although control over climate change and its cause -- excessive emissions of green house gasses -- is important to a very delicate ecosystem, the global concern must be more inclusive than increases in average temperature of the earth's atmosphere and its affect on climate change.

Understanding what our environmental evolution should achieve -- any journey must have a knowledge of its destination -- is essential to achieving it. What must be achieved beyond Global Warming encompasses the concept of ranking civilizations as Type I, Type II, and Type III, which according to the Kardashev scale theorizes that civilizations may be ranked by their energy consumption. Accordingly, we must do all we can to achieve the lofty goal of a Type III civilization. Machio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, explains in his Star Makers essay, that a Type III civilization is capable of harnessing all of the power available from a single galaxy.

(It is interesting to note that in the estimation of Carl Sagen, at sometime prior to 1996, he determined that our civilization on the Kardashev scale should be ranked at around .07.)

In this light, the goal of a Type III civilization essentially must include the hypothetical process of terraforming as an achievable goal. Terraforming does not happen by placing controls over green house gasses alone. It must be inclusive of advancing technologies so we can deliberately modify atmosphere, temperature, and surface topography in such a way as to advance, evolutionarily and viably, civilization.

Additionally, in order to accomplish this goal we must understand the metaphorical concept of the Butterfly Effect of chaos theory, which suggests that a single small event can ignite a whole series of seemingly unrelated other events that have an affect holistically on our planet. In a global society, that is an important understanding, since any micro or macro environmental event in any nation or territory produces at some level a consequence for the global community.

Global warming or not, it should not matter. To be skeptical, yes, but let’s not take our eye off the ball. Our concern should not be as to whether Sarah Palin is correct when she says Polar Bear populations are on the upswing in defiance of the Environmental Protection Agencies claim that they are diminishing. Nor when Palin says in an opinion piece for The Washington Post, entitled Copenhagen's political science, calling for a boycott of Copenhagen because, she believes, the whole thing is hooey. Nor whether or not Global Warming is nothing but quack or quasi-science, or as CNN describes it as either Truth or Trick, or Climategate, as some have called it. Nor whether Global Warming is a political exercise, or a moneymaker for the free market capitalist, because to one degree or another it is all of these. However, despite all of these arguments, we cannot be a day late and a dollar short if manmade Global Warming turns out to be true.

So, my concern is not with the authenticity of catastrophic climate change, manmade or not, but rather with the globes concern for the natural environment in understanding that it is in its totality a living organism, and, for that reason, we should take care of, and be responsible for our earth’s environment in the same way we take care of our personal health needs and that of our loved ones, through treatment, and preventively by being proactive. If this were authentically understood, we would not have these meaningless, contentious debates.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize Recipient President Barack Obama: HE IS OUR PRESIDENT

All Americans should feel a sense of pride that we have this President of these United States. That he is ours. His Nobel Prize acceptance speech was magnificent.

President Obama’s address significantly surpasses the exhortations of President John F Kennedy’s American University Commencement Address.

Those who don’t feel that same pride, and who do nothing but claim this President does not deserve to be the President of the United States or deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize, should really self-audit, and take a close look at their own attitudes and authentic reasons why they feel that way. A significant majority of the time I find that it is because -- amongst other reasons that I don’t care to specify -- they are in solidarity with the stance and mindset ex-President Bush, ex-Vice President Cheney, and hawks, without realizing that if it were not for the actions of the Bush Administration, President Obama would not have received the Nobel Peace Prize: it was precisely the contrast President Obama has demonstrated in how America conducts its foreign policy and in establishing relations with other nations that triggered that winning nomination. If not for some Americans, at least as the Nobel Committee and a good part of the world see it, he is deserving.

Some of the points that President Obama made are the same points that I have argued for many years now, and therefore they really stood out to me: why confronting environment concerns are important, whether or not exigent global warming is a fact or not; understanding the absolutely important concept of the evolution of human institutions; setting the best example and best practices by example in words and actions; and, because of that, America must be the standard bearer.

The four excerpts form what President Obama said:

And that is why helping farmers feed their own people – or nations educate their children and care for the sick – is not mere charity. It is also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and activists who call for swift and forceful action – it is military leaders in my country and others who understand that our common security hangs in the balance.

Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy [from the American University Commencement Address] called for long ago. ‘Let us focus,’ he said, ‘on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.’

Furthermore, America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don’t, our action can appear arbitrary, and undercut the legitimacy of future intervention – no matter how justified.

I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength.

We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.

Robert F Kennedy: All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.

Robert F Kennedy: There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

President Barack Obama: So let us reach for the world that ought to be – that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls.

Text of Barack Obama Nobel Prize acceptance speech

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Libertarian Ron Paul

For the most part I sympathize with the philosophy of Ron Paul, republican representative from Texas and member of the House Finance Committee.

I am particularly in favor of his positions on no need for war, elimination of the Federal Reserve and abandonment of America’s money policies, specifically fractional-reserve banking, and the practice of printing money at will -- fiat money -- and a return to the gold standard. I also believe that Misesian or Austrian economic conditions serve America much more efficiently and with greater viability than one that is based on Keynesian economic theory and central economic planning.

I am a libertarian at heart. That being said, however, I do have real-life concerns with what is essentially Ron Paul’s libertarian philosophy.

Dr. Paul is squarely against government regulation. Dr. Paul believes that an authentic free market can regulate itself. In our Keynesian free market, that has not worked. I doubt it could work in a free market without government or some authoritative agency regulation. After all, an authentic free market, to my knowledge, has never been experienced, and so therefore Dr. Paul’s vision is simply hypothetical.

Dr. Paul asserts that an authentic free market would set the cost of labor, and consequently there would be full employment -- wages do not need to be governed with minimum wage standards or other government regulation. The question is, what would be the minimums and maximums of those wages? For those at the bottom of the labor force, would they be compensated with a living wage? Does anyone truly believe that a free market capitalist would be willing to pay a living wage or have any concern for the general welfare over or equal to their concern for profit? There may be full employment, I will give Dr. Paul that, but Americans would still be living in the streets and in greater numbers than now; most Americans certainly would not be capable of purchasing healthcare, adequate nutrition would be greater problem, and there would be many more like problems as well. Maximum wage earners and the wealthy would monopolize the market. This is, maybe, to the extreme, but someone at the bottom making a dollar or two an hour cannot compete in the market place with someone whose income is one million dollars a year. That is because there will be an adequate number of wealthy and high-income consumers who will keep the price of goods and services high simply because they can afford to pay the prices, and markets would focus on those high earners, not those at the bottom who cannot afford to pay.

It has been reported that in 2008 the compensation for Aetna’s CEO was twenty four million ($24,300,112); other CEO compensation: Cigna - $12,236,740; Health Net - $4,425,355; Humana - $4,764,309; WellPoint - $9,844,212. These companies certainly do not have any concern whether someone can buy health insurance. All they are interested in is high compensation, in salaries and in profit. There are ample high-end earners to satisfy their profit expectations without any reliance on purchases from lower-income earners. Therefore, healthcare insurance providers can operate at-will.

Dr. Paul believes that management and funding for healthcare, security, highways, railroads, public schools, etc., should be left to the individual States. That the federal government has no constitutional role in providing or controlling these activities or services. Some States are doing some of these things to one extent or another now. However, to expect each State to effectively step up to the plate, and be consistent with other States, is an unreasonable expectation; for example, what would happen if a citizen had health insurance in one State and then moved to another?

Dr. Paul’s assertion regarding no taxes is not possible. Of course, Dr. Paul is talking about federal taxes. However, there would still be federal taxes for national defense and national security. If there is a shift from federal to State for services the federal government now regulates, there would simply be a shift from federal taxes to State, City, Town, County, and/or some other community based tax to fund those services. Therefore, the incumbency of paying taxes will not be eliminated, and in the end, they may even be greater.

Dr. Paul believes that the free market in-and-of-itself would intrinsically manage the failures of financial institutions, the automotive industries, and all of the things that the government otherwise chose to manage with the economic stimulus and bailout of the U.S. financial system, saying that businesses should be allowed to collapse into bankruptcy or otherwise simply go out of business. He said that for Americans it would be painful for about a year, but that the recession would not last as long. In consideration of his previously stated philosophy on wages and no government interference, I assume, therefore, he would not support federal dollar allocations to the States for extended unemployment insurance benefits. Since under these circumstances, unemployment would most likely be greater, would Americans put up with the conditions following corporate bankruptcy or failure? After all, we tout government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and if there ever were a President Ron Paul, he would need to respond to their outcry.

Furthermore, If Ron Paul was President of the United States, with a Republican controlled congress, and he actually was able to accomplish his conservative goals of no federal government interference, just what do you think his ratings in the polls would be? Would he simply ignore American dissatisfaction?

The most significant concern I have is with the nature of money, and especially that of profit itself.

We need to take the need for profit, and for the time being, at least, excessive profit, out of our way of life. Essentially, over time, we need to discard money-based policies and replace them with resource-based policies. I suppose it is with some incongruity, taking my adverse stance on profit and money that I think of myself philosophically as libertarian. Incongruous because, libertarianism, conservatism, and liberalism are as such only because of our money-based system and Keynesian economics, and so, in a resource-based system those designations would have no meaning -- I don’t even see a need for political parties, Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. In a resource-based system, I believe society would be fundamentally libertarian: in the essential meaning of that word: i.e., the maximization of individual rights and minimizing the role of the State.

The real-life issue, which I have pragmatic concern, is how we move forward within the realities of present day circumstances. Do Americans understand and are they willing to accept the conceptual process of evolutionary change, or is their insatiable desire for immediacy going to prevail. Viable progress cannot be achieved without an understanding that change will always be resisted and will always be adversarial, coupled with an understanding of the reality and necessity to work from present day circumstances in order to move forward. An understanding that change is a process; it’s not an event.

With present day realities in mind, libertarianism or resource-based systems are equally utopian. In order to achieve either libertarianism or a moneyless society, an ongoing process occurring over time has to be incrementally implemented.

No one should be under the impression that circumstances can change on a dime, or that by 6:00 tomorrow morning any new system could be in place. President Obama nor any other President or Congress, nor any American can make that happen without infinitely planning long-term with infinite vision. It takes time; we have to work from the point of where we are now and not from where we would like to be. Our vision must represent where we would like to be at each step in the process. We have evolved economically as a result of the congressional initiatives of both conservatives and liberals, and from Keynesian economic management, wherein the economic system has been manipulated by the Federal Reserve and by government. We cannot change that in a flash.

For any journey to be successful, one must know the destination. In terms of Iraq, Afghanistan, monetary policy, and healthcare reform, we must start from where we are now and move forward to where we wish to be.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Afghanistan: the long deliberative decision

A comment posted on my Facebook Wall:


-- something I thought I would share from one of my Facebook friends.

I agree [with the position taken] being from the Vietnam era...

Afghanistan has the potential of being this generations Viet Nam.

It is a difficult region, with Cave Dwellers who live and fight as if it were the 13th century, and it is a war that is unwinnable for us, just like Nam.

Obama is listening to his advisors, just as LBJ listened to McNamara and his other Military and Pentagon advisors [in other words, Obama is listening to political advisors and not General McChrystal, if I read this statement correctly], and this course of action has a very ominous déjà vu appearance to it.

In acknowledgement is my follow-up comment:

There are somewhat similarities, but there are also some more very appreciable differences.

Unlike Vietnam, in Afghanistan there is a moral purpose: self-defense. The attacks of 9/11 support every justifiably moral and legal reason why we are in Afghanistan. Our combat operations in Afghanistan have international legitimacy to exercise our right of self-defense; after 9/11, a majority of nations were in sympathy with and fully supportive of America. There are 43 nations that are in Afghanistan because they believe in its purpose -- not a coalition of the willing as in Iraq – not America with the help of small numbers of other troops, such as the Aussies, as in Vietnam.

We committed as many as 500,000 U.S. troops to Vietnam with about 1 million ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) troops, and there were some Australian troops, against approximately 100,000 VC (Vietcong) and 850,000 PAVN (Peoples Army of Vietnam) forces -- a ratio of approximately 1.6 U.S.-ARVN to 1 VC-PAVN.

In Afghanistan, when 30, 000 U.S. forces are added we will have committed 100, 000 U.S. troops with 50, 000 ISF (International Security Force) forces against approximately 28,000 Taliban -- a ratio of approximately 5.3 U.S.-ISF to 1 Taliban. (Afghan Army cannot be counted -- yet).

(these numbers are arguable, but for the purposes of this writing, they are close enough)

Vietnam and Afghanistan are very much alike in the sense that neither war had/have the possibility of being winnable. Winnable, that is, as Americans think of winning – i.e. to conquer.

The fact is, unlike Vietnam, that there was a point where we did have the upper hand in Afghanistan. President Bush decided though that Iraq was a more important goal and switched our efforts in Afghanistan to Iraq before the work in Afghanistan was completed -- Bush jumped the gun for something that met his, Cheney’s, and the neoconservative hawks special agenda: The Project for the New American Century.

In consideration of that previously stated fact, it seems to me -- albeit not exactly as I would prefer the outcome -- we do have a significant probability that we can turn the situation around in a way that is suitable and appropriate for Afghanistan and the United States of America, and the 43 participating countries involved in this conflict.

Moreover, it seems to me -- and I forget who in essence said this -- that Americans want to start at positions we wish we were in, instead of understanding the position we are in, as it is and where we are now. It’s absolutely necessary to understand that concept to appreciate fully what our way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan should and must be.

The President is the Commander in Chief, and should and does listen with consideration to operation commanders and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just as McChrystal listens with consideration to those who are subordinate to him. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean they should follow their recommendations or advice; consider them, yes, but each level in any organizations hierarchy increasingly has a greater appreciation of the larger goal (the big picture) that have built-in other considerations, and at each level in turn is able to make built-upon knowledge leading to better decisions. That’s the reason why President Obama was patient and considerate of all positions and conditions -- international and political as well as military -- in his long waited deliberated decision. No one would expect General McChrystal necessarily to follow the recommendations or advice of his operations commanders, and likewise no one should expect the Commander and Chief necessarily to follow the advice of his operations commanders, i.e. the Joint Chiefs of Staff; certainly not of General McChrystal, for he reports to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

If this structure of government did not exist, there would be another branch of government: Executive, Judicial, Legislative, and Defense. In consideration of American proclivity for all things military, we would have a government controlled by the military -- a junta of sorts.

On Tuesday night, President Obama looked and sounded like the Commander in Chief; he looked and sounded like the President of the United States.

In consideration of the here and now we find ourselves, and although I would require a different win-win way forward, I fully support President Obama.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Killing At The Canal

One March day in 2007, American soldiers of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd "Dagger" Brigade, after being fired upon, became suspicious of four Iraqis after spotting them near a cache of weapons. The soldiers’ detained the Iraqis, loaded them into the back of a Bradley fighting vehicle, drove them in a convoy with thirteen soldiers to a canal in Baghdad’s West Rasheed neighborhood where three American sergeants killed the four blindfolded and bound Iraqis in the back of the head execution style.

Nine months later, Sergeant Jess Cunningham, one of the soldiers present at the canal killings, only after he was facing military discipline for assaulting Sergeant Michael Leahy, came forward and ratted on his fellow soldiers on what had happened at the canal. Since Sergeant Michael Leahy was one of the three sergeants who committed the canal murders, Cunningham’s motive for betraying the trust of his comrades at arms certainly is not clear. Certainly in light of Sergeant Cunningham and other soldiers in the platoon who all were charged with conspiracy to commit murder, he was the only one who escaped punishment: He was given immunity for testifying against the three sergeants who actually committed the killings; the charges against him were dropped.

The three sergeants in explaining their action explained that in order to give them up to the military command for processing at a detention facility they would need to provide evidence of their involvement in attacking U.S. forces. As First Sergeant John Hatley, one of the three sergeants, said, prisoners are often released by the detention center two to three days after capture because there was not enough evidence to hold them. Adding insult to injury, when these prisoners were released, the same unit that facilitated their capture was responsible to pick them up from the prison and release them. They then would return to the fight and kill more of America's soldiers. They felt the only action they could take to prevent that from happening was to execute them.

The three sergeants, John Hatley, Joseph Mayo, and Michael Leahy, were convicted of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder.

First Sergeant John Hatley was sentenced to life in prison but the sentence was later reduced to 40 years; Sergeant First Class Joseph Mayo and Sergeant Michael Leah were each sentenced to 20-year terms.

Some Americans have called for leniency. And perhaps their sentencing was too stiff, especially in consideration that the U.S. Army trained them to kill on our behalf, and we are responsible for putting them in that situation in the first place. During the Vietnam War, Second Lieutenant William Calley was convicted of the premeditated murder of twenty two Vietnamese civilians when he was found guilty of ordering the March 16, 1968 My Lai Massacre. As many as 500 villagers were murdered that day and Calley was the only person convicted. He ended up spending 3 1/2 years in house arrest. How does one resolve the question of leniency when there are such very apparent disparities between the punishment of these three sergeants and that of Lieutenant Calley? However, if you read the circumstances of Calley’s murder trial, and house arrest, I believe any reasonable person would conclude that the leniency given Lieutenant Calley was very unacceptable. Nevertheless, were the sentences of Hatley, Mayo, and Leah too harsh in consideration of all known existential facts.

Some of the abbreviated blog comments on the killing at the canal:

They are American Heroes, not murderers;

You can’t understand unless you were there;

You people are stupid, If I were in combat, I would shoot anyone who wasn’t American; The killings in the canal were justified;

The wives say they are good men, they are heroes, and they had no choice but to murder those detainees;

They are an embarrassment to the US Army and the soldiers who serve honorably and ethically;

How many of these types of incidents are going unreported;

The fundamental war crime, that enabled all the rest, is starting an illegal war of aggression, which is what the Iraq war was;

The Army didn’t teach them to murder unarmed prisoners. They chose to do it, and they knew it was wrong when they did it;

I can give them a measure of sympathy and understanding;

These men are patriotic Americans serving in the US Army who executed under their own accord four detainees; Maybe we should call the executioners of American detainees heroes as well;

American soldiers are held to a higher standard than that of their enemies; what happened to these prisoners of war is not what we expect to happen to anyone in war;

So, were the Nazis that executed American soldiers who were prisoners during WWII heroes, as well? These American soldiers did the same thing; it was murder back in WWII, and it is murder now;

As depicted in the Good Soldier, our combat soldiers are trained to kill, but there are rules of engagement that must be followed;

It’s clear now that substantial fractions of Americans are perfectly fine with war crimes as long as they’re committed by Americans; Or more probably, it’s not a war crime -- or torture -- if an American does it;

Worse, they led their own Soldiers to do the same immoral and illegal act. The job of the NCO [non-commissioned officer] is to ensure that his soldiers do not become that which they behold [act the same as the other side]. The NCO is responsible for a soldiers discipline, that they follow the rules of engagement, and responsible for the laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law are honored. Completely in conflict with what these NCO’s have done.

While I know there are many excellent men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces, and that there are true heroes (a person noted for courageous action above and beyond the call of duty), it does not mean every man or woman who voluntarily chose to serve are heroes, and certainly these men, as the word has been defined, are not.

Whether in war or not, it’s very troubling to me when Americans excuse the execution of anyone for any reason as being acceptable. Additionally, there is something extraordinarily wrong when a significant number of Americans think these three sergeants did nothing wrong by executing prisoners under their charge of safe care.

Part of the problem is that the nature of war has changed with the advent of Asymmetric warfare and counterinsurgency warfare as we are experiencing in Iraq and Afghanistan. This type of engagement is more suitable if performed by para-military or conventional police forces. However, engaging the enemy in the mountains and areas of engagement outside of tribal, urban, and suburban communities, need conventional armed forces for success.

The U.S. Department of Defense has been trying to enforce rules of prima facie evidence, interrogation, and procedures that normally would be undertaken by police forces. That is a big mistake. United States Armed Forces are not trained to interrogate, gather evidence, or make individual judgments. If an Army combat team receives fire that team then takes certain actions and positions to engage the enemy and return fire – not to make a personal judgment before engaging and returning fire.

A combat soldier or combat team is trained to cause havoc and kill, pure and simple, and nothing more than that.

Investigative correspondent Abbie Boudreau and senior investigative producer Scott Zamost produced a documentary, Killing at the Canal, for CNN. Viewing this documentary will give one greater insight.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Most reports I have read claim nearly two million undocumented immigrant children live in the US today. They are children who were born outside the U.S. but raised in this country and whose parents, for one reason or another, are not documented. Of these, about 65,000 undocumented immigrant students graduate from high school each year without proper documents of citizenship or a green card that would allow them to remain and work legally in the United States. Therefore, when they graduate from high school, without the ability to acquire a visa or green card, their future in this country is at jeopardy: they cannot work, go to college, or drive a car. These highly motivated individuals lived in the United States all or most of their lives and want nothing more than to be recognized as American citizens.

They and their parents have contributed to their community, church, paid their taxes, and other than the illegality of their residence, have obeyed our laws. Many of these students have participated in school clubs and sports teams, and are often working to help support their families.

After years of residency in the United States, why should these parents and their children not be provided with an appropriate path to citizenship? They would not have been allowed to take up residency if it were not for America’s acquiescence and an inability to make up our mind about immigration policy.

Many Americans who read this will say that they are not good citizens; most are here to take advantage of our welfare system; they are criminals, or otherwise here for some other nefarious reason.

I say we have laws, if enforced, to control and prosecute these abuses. And, the immigrants who commit these abuses are not in the majority. If we have laws to prosecute criminality, why are there not laws to protect immigrants who have, other than their illegality because of our complicity, behaved and obeyed our laws?

It’s interesting that the United States allows people with the following status to obtain a Green Card without labor certification and yet will deport young people after we have paid for their education:

Aliens of Extraordinary Ability in Business, Sciences, Arts, Education, or Athletics

Outstanding Professors/Researchers

International Executives/Managers

Exceptional Ability in the Sciences, Arts, Business with a "National Interest Waiver"

Registered Physical Therapists

Registered Professional Nurses

There is a documentary entitled Papers, directed by Anne Galisky of Graham Street Productions, which addresses the story of undocumented youth and the challenges they face as they turn 18.

CNN’s Rick Sanchez in his segment called Conexion interviews Anne Galisky and Walter Lara who is one of the students presented in the movie, Papers.

Enter the DREAM Act (the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act}, a piece of proposed federal legislation, similar to previous proposals introduced in 2001, and then again in 2007, that was reintroduced in the congress on March 26, 2009. The bill would provide certain undocumented immigrant students who graduate from US high schools, who are of good moral character, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency.

The DREAM Act is not about giving special treatment to immigrant students/benefits that American kids don’t get; it is not a free pass -- in order to benefit from the legislation students must work hard, graduate from high school and attend college or join the military; and, immigrant students are not taking resources away -- it will increase the educational attainment of our youth, thereby increasing the amount of taxes they pay towards safety-net programs such as Social Security and Medicare..

However, it is about the fact that we have already invested in the education of these students. Therefore, we should allow them to reach their full potential and contribute to our society. And it is about equal opportunity: undocumented students work just as hard as their U.S.-born classmates, but they do not have the same opportunities.

These young people were brought to the United States as children; they did not partake in the decision to come here; they had no control over the economic conditions in the countries that forced their parents to come here.

The DREAM Act’s only purpose is to ensure that no undocumented graduating student is denied their dream of having a better life in America if they’re willing to work for it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sarah Palin for President? Really!

Yesterday my son and I were listening to a discussion on CNN regarding Sarah Palin and her new book, Rogue: An American Life. The discussion led to the question, will she make a run for the Presidency in 2012?

I made the remark that I would not vote for her. I said she is not qualified. My son, without hesitation responded, she’s more qualified than Obama!

Although, perhaps, I should have responded, I did not, because my son was stating criteria, such as the length of her term as governor of Alaska, and I really didn’t know if what he was saying was factual or not. Nor did I have any qualifications that I could state factually and defend.

Therefore, for my son and whoever might believe that Sarah Palin is qualified to be President of the United States, I herein state why I believe she is not, and certainly not more than Barack Obama.


From PBS’s Frontline presentation, The Qualities That Bear On Presidential Performance by Fred Greenstein, here are some of the qualities that were deemed essential, and of which I agree:

Effectiveness as a Public Communicator
I personally would say that as far as effective oratory and public communication Barack Obama has my nomination. In every interview, he is well positioned on the issues. I cannot see where there would be any disagreement here, it’s an inarguable assertion.

Sarah Palin has a difficult time with communication effectiveness, as for example in her campaign interviews with the media. She has the charisma, but not sufficient knowledge of the issues to answer the hard questions on economics or foreign policy, and in other areas, as well. This should be an inarguable assertion, as well.

Organizational Capacity and Political Skill
Barack Obama went from being a virtual unknown in 2004 to becoming the 44th President of the United States in 2009. He conducted an extremely well organized and effective campaign, of which he worked hard to achieve.

Sarah Palin is more of a celebrity than she is a politician. She acquired her celebrity position because John McCain’s campaign handlers made her a celebrity. She also achieved her celebrity as a result of the tabloid nature in which her image was exploited, to which many Americans seem to have an obsession. She didn’t arrive at her celebrity as a result of her capacity for hard work or organization, or because of her political skill. And, one must answer the question for themselves, why did the John McCain and his campaign managers choose her. Most reasonably minded people know the answer to that question.

President Obama has a progressive vision for America, one that evolves with prevailing conditions -- a vision that takes into account modernity and globalization and does not support the status quo. He has substantiated that position many times.

Sarah Palin’s mindset is in the same camp as Cheney and Bush in terms of Iraq and Afghanistan, foreign policy, and economics. She is a strict status quo conservative who has no progressive vision for America. She would make a better commentator on Fox News than President of the United States.

Cognitive Style
Barack Obama is a critical thinker and a builder of strategies to accomplish goals. He has a style of listening rather than dictating or talking. He is a consensus builder at heart, ever though he has 535 congressional members who for the most part are not. President Obama has an impressive handle on the issues and can clearly communicate them. He strongly believes, as evidenced by his actions, that it is important for a leader to surround themselves with reliable people from which to draw a variety of views prior to making decisions.

Sarah Palin has not demonstrated an acceptable cognitive style, at least to my satisfaction, so far. Sarah Palin certainly does not seem to be a critical thinker. She has a combative and confrontational demeanor in the style, more or less, of Hannity, Beck, and Limbaugh, when presenting and defending her positions on the issues.

Emotional Intelligence
President Obama has outstanding control over his emotions. He is cool as a cucumber under the most difficult situations and controversy; he exemplifies reticence and dispassion.

From the examples Sarah Palin has shown, she does not seem to have the emotional intelligence necessary to be President of the United States. It is clear that she does not have the ability to control her emotions. When she said, you can describe the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull in a single word: "lipstick," she was self-describing herself as a pit bull, which in slang means: one who behaves in a markedly aggressive or ruthless manner.

Character and Credibility
Barack Obama has gravitas, and he makes outstanding judgments concerning the issues that face America.

Sarah Palin has not demonstrated gravitas or credibility.

These are some of her fallacious remarks:

Ronald Reagan faced an even worse recession than the current one;

Says she couldn't take stimulus money because it required universal building codes;

Obama would experiment with socialism;

Seniors and the disabled will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care;

A provision in the health care reform bill for end-of-life counseling for seniors is not voluntary.

Ms. Palin certainly does not show thoughtful, well-reasoned responses to Interrogation, nor does she give dignified responses, such as her response to the healthcare reform issue.

Sarah Palin thought the interview during the campaign with Katie Couric would be a hockey mom to hockey mom sort of thing. She could not name any regular news or magazine publications that she regularly read. And, citing Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of her foreign-policy experience clearly showed, if nothing else, how unprepared she was for the interview.

And, the question posed by Katie Couric here certainly should reveal to anyone that Sarah Palin is not Presidential material:

COURIC: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700bn helping middle-class families, who are struggling with healthcare, housing, gas and groceries, allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?
PALIN: That's why I say, I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the tax payers looking to bail out, but ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping tho— it's got to be all about job creation too, shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track, so healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reigning in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as— competitive— scary thing, but one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

What did she say that was coherent? It was garbled, inscrutable, and she was simply copycatting the conservative or republican position without any nuance. Unlike President Obama who is skilled in presenting things in a nuanced way as well as with depth of meaning.

This is the most important criterion for a President of the United States. All of the qualities presented here are encompassed under the header of leadership. But, leadership in its essence is the ability to lead people in the pursuit of a common goal or in developing a common purpose, a vision, recognition for a job well done, instilling pride in participatory ownership of the goal or vision, and eliciting sacrifice for the greater good. A good leader must represent authenticity and believability, as well as to provide guidance and direction. Leadership lies in the capacity to act personally, as well as representing their organization or country, in this case the United States of America, by setting the best example through best practices for themselves and their country.

President Obama is such a leader. I really doubt that Sarah Palin could measure up to that.

Someone once said, and I believe it to be true, there is no previous experience that can adequately prepare anyone for the Presidency of the United States, other than the preponderance of their own life’s experience.

Education, Work Experience, and Accomplishments

Barack Obama

Graduated from Columbia University in New York

Received his law degree, graduating magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School

He became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review

Worked as a civil rights lawyer and as a community organizer in New York and Chicago

Lectured in constitutional law at the University of Chicago

He was elected to the Illinois state senate in 1997, where he served as chairman of the Public
Health and Welfare Committee

Third African-American to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention
when he took the stage at the 2004 convention in Boston, MA.

In 2004 he was elected to the U.S. Senate and quickly became a major national political figure

He was inaugurated as the 44th — and the United States' first African American — President
on January 20, 2009

Sarah Palin

First female governor of Alaska

Earned a journalism degree from the University of Idaho in 1987

A few stints as a TV sportscaster in Anchorage

Wasilla city council in 1992

Wasilla city's mayor from 1996-2002

In 2002, she made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor

On December 4, 2006, became Alaska's first woman governor, but resigned in the middle of
her first term

From 2003 to 2004 chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. However,
concerned by ethical conflicts involving a commission member who was also republican state
party chairman, she resigned after serving less than a year

Became John McCain's running mate in the U.S. presidential elections of 2008


It seems to me that any logical thinking person would easily see that Barack Obama is significantly more qualified to be President of the United States than Sarah Palin.

Along with Limbaugh, and Fox News’s Hannity and Beck, she certainly is and will continue to be a rebel rouser for, and will represent the values of, the Republican Party. However, at this time she should never be considered for the office of President of the United States of America.

And, for that matter, I don’t see where she, Fox News, or Limbaugh do anything positive to advance the authentic positions of the Republican Party.

(Cartoons are the courtesy of US News and World Report)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Good Soldier

It's hard to imagine watching a more affecting movie than The Good Soldier ... because it may be as affecting a movie as I've ever seen. It took one seemingly simple question—What makes a good soldier?—and reduced the answer to its essence. That being, the ability to kill other human beings. Using the voices of veterans from WWII, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and Iraq, each gave this exact same answer, and they all spoke not only of their guilt and regret, but also of how at some point during their time in the military they needed to kill. Their reasons were different, but the training that gave them the skills and permission was not. I found it both hard to watch and hard to turn away from, and I know I'll never look at the words ‘collateral damage' in the same way again. Really powerful stuff. - Jason Albert of the Onion

No matter how disturbing that may be to many Americans, that truth is the essence to the meaning of being a soldier, and of war.

I don’t believe Americans who rally around the flag in support of war truly understand when a military occupational specialty (MOS) is infantryman or an MOS that requires direct engagement with the enemy that the mission is to kill. They will tell you that they do understand, but they do not have an acute awareness of what it means to be a soldier, its profundity, or consequence, and will quickly dismiss it by saying, killing, oh well, that’s what happens in war. They don’t seem to understand that their government is asking their son or daughter, or another American, to commit murder. Nor do most enlist in the military with that understanding, but that is the essence of the mission. Few have the capability to kill another human being, so, combat training, beyond basic training, is the process of teaching and motivating a soldier precisely how to kill. A well-trained warrior is essential to a disciplined professional army who are skilled at organized killing in order to bring about success in war.

I learned early on that war forms it own culture. The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug, one I ingested for many years. It is peddled by mythmakers -- historians, war correspondents, filmmakers, novelists, and the state -- all of whom endow it with qualities it often does possess: excitement, exoticism, power, chances to rise above our small station in life, and a bizarre and fantastic universe that has a grotesque and dark beauty. It dominates culture, distorts memory, corrupts language, and infects everything around it, even humor, which becomes preoccupied with the grim perversities of smut and death. Fundamental questions about the meaning, or meaninglessness, of our place on the planet are laid bare when we watch those around us sink to the lowest depths. War exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface within all of us. And this is why for many war is so hard to discuss once it is over. – War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedges

Therefore, when a soldier returns home from combat, he or she cannot be candid with acquaintances, friends, or family, regarding their experiences. There is not that level of understanding to enable others to understand. Their experiences have left them to living life in a vacuum, and they can only break free and be candid when they are with other combat veterans. It is an experience they will never be able to shake off. As the VFW has reported, many returning combat veterans for the remainder of their life will suffer depression, recurring nightmares, survivor guilt, outbursts of rage (often directed at family members), exaggerated startle responses and anxiety reactions—all of which are classic symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This is part 1 of 6 parts of the video, Tip of the Spear

When you turn somebody into a well-trained killer, how do you turn off the killer part of their personality [I object to personality; I prefer indoctrination]? Robert W. Butler, Kansas City Star

The answer to that is not to turn them into killers in the first place. As a result of these revelations, there is an ever-increasing emergent need to abolish war, which is long overdue. An exigent respect for all life is desperately needed.

One of abolition’s main problems is that Americans seem to be oblivious to the realities of war. They seem to be unaware of what we are asking our young people to do, and a more importantly sad fact is that an enlistee before he or she makes a commitment essentially does not know what America is asking them to do if they ever should be chosen for a combat role.

What parent would ever want to aspire to have their government turn their son or daughter into a trained, highly disciplined killer? Yet, mothers and fathers do not seem to look at it in that way. To them, serving in the Armed Forces as a soldier is honorable. They are caught up with the hero syndrome, myths and glory of war. For many complex and deliberate governmental, cultural, and societal reasons, Chris Hedges is correct: War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

Furthermore, the abolition of war is not possible as long as Americans continue to believe the propaganda that war commandants like General Norman Schwarzkopf, of Persian Gulf War fame, are really fatherly, pussy cats, and teddy bears at heart; … that war is necessary, that wars for peace are legitimate, and as long as world governments and the military- industrial-academic complex continue with their support and/or obsessive desire for profit and power will we ever reach that goal.

Since 9/11, homeland security has taken center stage with all kinds of discussion on what our government and we can do to make America more secure. The most progressive step we can take to achieving homeland security is for us to gain the knowledge necessary to understand, and to provide the leadership of best practices and examples necessary for the world to come to the same realization that the elimination of war is indispensable to achieving security and world peace.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No War Day

Veteran’s Day is a day America sets aside to honor its veterans. It is a day that we should honor veterans for their dedication and commitment. It is not a day that we should glorify the wars in which many have served. Veteran’s Day is as much a metaphor of our past as it should be a metaphor for our future, war “NEVER AGAIN!”

I am proud of our veterans in that many have selfishly served our country, whether that service is voluntary or not, based on a belief propagated by our government and many Americans that their service was and is necessary to preserve our freedom and our way of life. Their courage, loyalty, and devotion are extraordinary.

I am not proud of our government or Americans who do not respect life and who will send an American into harms way willy-nilly, base its necessity on fabrication, wage war of their own design or imbue Americans with the notion that If we didn’t have a military we would not have a country.

As long as we are under that impression and as long as Americans believe that diplomacy and negotiation are analogous to appeasement, war will remain the only remaining option. With that mindset, the mantra “NEVER AGAIN!” will not ever have any meaning; there will always continue to be veterans and Veterans Day, which is more of a celebration of war than honoring their service.

Andy Rooney on CBS’s 60 Minutes had a good thought. His view, Declare War On War.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

The following is the transcript of what he said:

(CBS) I keep this calendar on my desk, and while I don't look at it very often I notice that this Wednesday is Veterans Day. It's one of ten federal holidays that we have. Well, I'm a veteran and I hate that name.

Considering that we aren't technically at war now, there's an awful lot about war in the news even when it's not something like Veterans Day. I suppose that's because there's so much fighting in the world. There are half a dozen small wars going on right now - some of them in places most of us have never been to or even never heard of before.

Too many young men and women with a whole life ahead of them are getting killed before they have a chance to live it and for what?

Of all the things that men do - historically mostly men - fighting a war to kill other men is the most uncivilized.

Wars have been fought through time and we may think we're more civilized now than people were 100 or 500 years ago but there's no sign that fighting wars is a thing of the past. There's always one going on somewhere.

Eight of my classmates - friends really - in school and college were killed in World War II. I've had 60 years of life that those eight friends never had. We call this a civilization?

More than 5,200 American men and women, kids really - have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It may be a small number in two small wars but if you're one of those killed or even a father or mother of one, there's nothing small about it.

Why not, instead of commemorating Veterans Day, we establish and work on what we could call a No War Day.

The name doesn't have much of a ring to it but a day like that would be worth celebrating

Obama Needs to Go to Ft. Hood

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro in a recent post on FOXNews.com, Obama Needs to Go to Ft. Hood, wrote, This is one of the worst shooting massacres in American history and ironically, it happened at a secure, U.S. Army military installation. -- That's the president's turf and he should be there at the very least as a symbol of hope to those family members who lost loved ones.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro’s complaint is shallow and unjust. It’s another example of Fox News bias and propensity for fallacious quasi-tabloid journalism.

Shapiro opines that it took six months following President Obama’s inauguration to visit Afghanistan, but it was understandable because the country was not safe. Did you feel it was safe at Fort Hood, Mr. Shapiro, even though the military thought it was unsafe by calling for a lock down of the base? Not until the dust has settled do Presidents visit disaster areas with any response, and never STAT, which apparently in your view a STAT response was the President’s responsibility.

Apparently, Shapiro and those at Fox News have short memories or do not choose to remember the Bush-Katrina catastrophe.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, killing more than 1,800 people, and left the city of New Orleans in a dire situation and destitute for help.

The Washington Monthly wrote, While New Orleans is undergoing a slow motion catastrophe, Bush mugs for the cameras, cuts a cake for John McCain, plays the guitar for Mark Wills, delivers an address about V-J day, and continues with his vacation. When he finally gets around to acknowledging the scope of the unfolding disaster, he delivers only a photo op on Air Force One and a flat, defensive, laundry list speech in the Rose Garden. … Actions have consequences. No one could predict that a hurricane the size of Katrina would hit this year, but the slow federal response when it did happen was no accident. It was the result of four years of deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of operational competence. It's the Bush administration in a nutshell.

It was one of the strongest storms in recorded history and President Bush took his sweet time for any kind of a response, rhetorically or kinetically!

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro wrote in a November 5, 2008 article in the Wall Street Journal, Just as Americans have gained perspective on how challenging Truman's presidency was in the wake of World War II, our country will recognize the hardship President Bush faced these past eight years -- and how extraordinary it was that he accomplished what he did in the wake of the September 11 attacks. … The treatment President Bush has received from this country is nothing less than a disgrace. The attacks launched against him have been cruel and slanderous, proving to the world what little character and resolve we have. The president is not to blame for all these problems. He never lost faith in America or her people, and has tried his hardest to continue leading our nation during a very difficult time.

Mr. Shapiro said that last year regarding, of all people, Bush, and a year later will not give President Obama the same consideration. I guess Shapiro must not think that President Obama has a lot on his plate.

In his piece, Obama Needs to Go to Ft. Hood, Mr. Shapiro said, In the meantime, Obama did order all flags flown at the White House and other federal buildings flown at half-mast, calling it a modest tribute to those [who] were killed and serve in the armed services. Adding, That's putting it mildly.

President Obama’s expression, a modest tribute, means humble in face of what the men and women in the armed services are sacrificing for our country. I guess all things are subject to the eyes of the beholder, especially that of Mr. Shapiro and Fox News. In this case, Mr. Shapiro should have his cataracts operated on; his vision as a result is extremely poor.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mr. Chilcott: … enough is enough for a reasonable man—more is superfluous

In reference to Reader's view: Tell Congress, 'Enough' :

Two antithetical ideological views are making the nationalization argument very contentious. One is the ideology of free market capitalism, a Randian philosophy of objectivism and individualism, while the other the ideology of liberalism, a progressive societal view with concern for equality of rights and amelioration.

Nationalization means deprivatization by putting private ownership into public ownership of the government. However, that is not what government is doing, and we are a long way from that form of government control. Government investment as opposed to government control is not nationalization

Auto and finance industry bailouts are government investments. Healthcare reform is not nationalization, but it is an investment in the well-being of Americans.

For those who are constitutional fundamentalist, the preamble to the Constitution, amongst other enumerations, states the principle of promoting the general welfare. I interpret welfare from its essential meaning: health, happiness, and good fortune; well-being; prosperity. I am certain the framers, in the preamble’s expression general welfare, did not mean government welfare or corporate welfare; it was meant to mean well-being. Since it is not explicit how that would be accomplished, nor whether or not it is the power of the United States or the States to accomplish that goal, even though the principle is explicit in the preamble, the Second Amendment tenet giving powers not delegated therefore may apply. So, in this regard Mr. Chilcott may be correct. Nevertheless, the general welfare principle is in the preamble, albeit contrary to Fox News infamous Judge Napolitano, healthcare legislation is constitutional.

There is only one group of Americans benefiting from defeat of health insurance reform and that is the private healthcare insurance industry.

Anyone who thinks congress should leave the solution to our financial and healthcare predicament in the hands of free market capitalist have their proverbial head in the sand. They are the folks who are significantly responsible for today’s economic and healthcare quagmire.

Those who blame the Obama administration for all of America’s ills, evidently are not cognizant of the fact that six of the last eight years republicans held the congressional majority, and for eight years had a republican president presiding over a failed presidency: President George W Bush approved and condoned a policy of torture, explicitly in violation of the Geneva Convention, putting any American service member captured in a precarious position; violated America’s constitutional principles under the rubric of the Patriots Act; conducted an illegal war in Iraq; marred the international image of the United States, and of every American and member of America’s Armed Forces; conducted a failed foreign relations policy; and oversaw a failing economy.

This rebuttal may be superfluous, as are Mr. Chilcott’s arguments, but evidently it still is necessary. We have Fox News and the Limbaugh’s of the world who continue to express unreasonable views that attract unreasonable men and women. In that light, it’s very hard to be complacent.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Judge Andrew Napolitano on Natural Rights and the Patriot Act

In this part 3 presentation of Judge Andrew Napolitano’s talk on Natural Rights and the Patriot Act, the judge opines that healthcare is not addressed in the U.S. Constitution.

He relates a question asked in a Wall Street Journal article as to whether or not the Congress could under the Constitution regulate healthcare. Obviously, they can’t. Healthcare is not mentioned in the constitution. The framers had hospitals -- the framers had doctors -- the framers got sick -- the framers needed healthcare. It was beyond their wildest imaginings that they would be creating a government that would somehow be able to regulate this kind of human behavior.

Well, the preamble to the Constitution, amongst other enumerations, states the principle of promoting the general welfare. I interpret welfare from its fundamental meaning: health, happiness, and well-being. What other way could anyone interpret the word welfare. Promoting the general welfare was not meant to mean welfare for the few but for all Americans. These constitutional principles were delineated because they were considered by the framers to be natural law or natural rights of which healthcare or the principle of welfare -- health, happiness, and well-being -- be kept as it was envisioned and were not to be violated. Keeping it, however, proportional and having no change from its original intent, and yet adopting it to the complex nature of modernity. To do that in today’s world needs regulation, to keep it in Judge Napolitano’s words, regular.

Of course, the framers had hospitals, doctors, got sick, and the framers needed healthcare. However, it was then called medical care, not healthcare, and physicians only treated the symptoms of disease; healthcare is a modern word that means the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through the services offered by the medical and allied health professions. The practice of medicine has gone from what were general practitioners to today where practitioners practice particular medical and surgical specialties. The framers did not have pharmaceuticals, as we know them today. In the epoch of the framers of the Constitution, there was no such thing as healthcare; furthermore, physicians did not need to be licensed. In the eighteenth century, life was not as complex. Then it was an entirely different America.

He goes on to say, Where in the constitution is it authorized that the federal government to regulate healthcare?

Judge Napolitano, in order to clarify what it means to regulate, in analogy uses interstate commerce as an example, which he defines as to keep regular: To keep regular, to make sure there is commerce between the states. Well Judge, how are you to keep regular that which is not regulated. It is a disingenuous statement. Frankly, the man should know better, and I believe he does know better, as to why there is a need to keep things, as he says, regular, to regulate, and to have regulation. What happens if, to use his analogy, interstate commerce is not kept regular as defined by government? Well, it would then be regulated by government legislation. The Judge is a man of the law. Law is a means by which government keeps human action regular, or as it is meant to be as determined by government. Isn’t the Constitution regulation, meant to regulate how we govern ourselves?

Further, to compare the healthcare reform proposals that would include the so-called public option to be as unconstitutional as the Patriot Act is simply specious, unreasonable, irresponsible, and dishonest. The Patriot Act is clearly unconstitutional. President Bush, his administration, and congress knew, or certainly should have known, that it was unconstitutional, but passed the legislation anyway. It does not say very much of our country for that to have happened. It clearly violates the civil liberties that Americans have always held dear. Healthcare is a civil liberty all Americans should share.

Evidently, Judge Napolitano is an originalist. I, here, also find disagreement with him.

The Constitution of the United States, adopted on September 17, 1787, is the document that delineates our nation’s guiding principles and the rights guaranteed to all U.S. citizens. It should not be violated; however, it is a living document. It needs to evolve and change over time as conditions change, and as our knowledge and technology evolve.

If the Constitution from its beginning had been intended to be a static document, it would not have been amended twenty-seven times, and there would not have been the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights, adopted December 15, 1791, even if it was intended at the time to be a part of the bill at some later time. It was four years after the Constitution that the Bill of Rights was adopted. In addition, there would not be a need for a Supreme Court. The Constitution would simply be the carved in stone law of the land.

Particular to my view on the constitutionality of healthcare regulation is my analogy of it to the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights that protects a right to keep and bear arms. The text of the Second Amendment states, A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

It is particularly disturbing to me that many in congress, as well as many Americans, view that it is a citizen’s right to bear arms, but it is not a citizen’s right to affordable, reliable, and accessible healthcare. That which in the preamble to the Constitution of the United States affirms that in order to form a more perfect union, America needs to promote the general welfare.

What do you suppose would happen if today’s private sector arms dealers were non-restrictive, laissez-faire, free-market capitalist. For them to operate without any restrictions or regulation whatsoever. What kind of a country would this be without some form of regulation on firearms? In the eighteenth century, it was never envisioned that there would be the number of firearms, availability, variety, or lethality of today’s weaponry. Citizens of the eighteenth century were able to band together and were capable of defending themselves, their communities, and their nation against a tyrannical government(s) armed forces or police force(s). In that Zeitgeist life was considerably non-restrictive and libertarian. For the most part, their armaments, with the exception of artillery and naval forces, were equal to any government-armed force. However, today, to own a weapon that would be effective against any government(s) armed force(s) is absurd.

It is true. There have been many abuses with regulation, mostly due to the drive for profit, an unacceptable quest of profit by the public and by the private sector. Nevertheless, what would healthcare look like today if our nation continued without regulation of the industry (a term, by the way, even though it is used in relation to healthcare, I don’t like to use because of the implication of profit)? In particular, absence of the licensing/certification of physicians, hospitals, and all of the other allied, affiliated, and supporting medical services.

It would be grand, but utopian, to live in a country without restrictions, without law or regulation, and completely libertarian. It would equally be even grander, and extremely beneficial, if we could evolve into a nation and world free of dependency, restrictions, regulations, and other hindrances placed on us, not only by government but by private enterprise as well, that are endemic in a money-based, capitalistic free-market system. I am acutely aware that there are not many who will believe it, but over time, we can evolve to that place. That is not a utopian dream!